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ER Eddie 06-08-2020 01:12 PM

Lessons from My First Year of Retirement
 
Lessons from the First Year of Retirement

I’m approaching my one-year retirement anniversary, so I thought I’d share the main lessons I’ve learned. If you’re approaching retirement, you might find some of this helpful. If you’ve already retired, maybe you’ll relate to some of this, or perhaps your experience has been different.

1. Hey, an economic collapse. Neat.

The economy went into a tailspin 9 months after I retired. After only 9 months, my retirement felt like a newborn baby, and baby was getting smacked around pretty early in life.

But, as it turns out, economic catastrophes aren’t so catastrophic after all. At least so far. The world is burning, but I’m doing okay. Sing along now: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

2. I figured out when I’m going back to work: never

Approaching retirement, in the back of my mind, I had a fallback option of turning retirement into a “gap year” or two, if it didn’t pan out. That is, I thought that I might choose to return to part-time work, after a year or two’s hiatus. That wasn’t the plan, but it was a failsafe option.

I wondered, “What if I miss the intellectual stimulation or challenge of work? What if I miss interacting with smart people in my profession? What if I can’t find enough activities that feel meaningful and productive?”

Well, none of that happened. I am more intellectually stimulated and challenged now in retirement than I was at work. I occasionally miss some of the interaction with colleagues, but interactions in the workplace were narrow in scope, because of the professional roles and tasks. I interact with a wider range of smart people now, and I feel freer to express what I think about a variety of issues I’d never talk about at work. And I haven’t had any trouble finding meaningful things to do.

So, my career is over. It feels a little sad to say that, but also freeing. I don’t say it with any negativity. I never got “sick of” my job or anything like that. I always liked it at least a little. I just know that I’m done with it. My career is part of my past now. It’s in the rear-view mirror, and I’m not going back.

3. I significantly underestimated my expenses

I tracked spending before I retired, but I sort of half-assed it. I used old, limited data from a time when I was in “saving for retirement” mode.

When I actually retired, I ended up spending a lot more money than normal, especially in the first 6 months. I opened the spigot. I was celebrating. I bought whatever I felt like buying -- a bike, camping gear, a dog, some furniture, a ton of books and music, clothes, some stupid ****. Also, once I retired, I noticed a bunch of stuff that needed replacing or upgrading, which I’d been putting off while working.

Yearly expenses were $5000/yr. higher than expected. Not a lot in actual dollar terms, but looked at as a percentage, that’s 15% higher than what I projected (38K vs. 33K/yr.). That’s not a problem – I jacked up my spending on purpose, and I’ve got plenty of headroom -- but it is substantially higher than what I estimated.

In retrospect, I think I unconsciously kept the estimates as low as I could, because by doing that, I could feel safer and more secure when pulling the plug.

We’ll see how this plays out over the next few years. I feel better now that I have a more realistic estimate of my spending. And I take some comfort knowing that I can dial back expenses 15% if I need to.

However, if you’re approaching retirement, be aware you might tend to underestimate expenses, just like I did.

4. The honeymoon lasted about 6 to 9 months

I was very happy in retirement for the first 6 to 9 months. Gradually, though, that feeling ebbed, and eventually, I returned to my baseline levels of happiness.

I think it’s called hedonic adaptation. If I remember right, most people who win the lottery are back to baseline levels of happiness in about 6 to 12 months, and so are most people diagnosed with cancer. So, it’s not surprising that something similar happens with retirement. We adjust to changes. Retirement becomes “the new normal.”

One distinction, though: If you ask me whether I’m more satisfied with my life now that I’m retired, I’d say “Yes, absolutely.” I’m just saying my day-to-day mood is not all that much better than it was before I retired. Probably a little.

So, just be aware that retirement doesn’t put a permanent smile on your face. If my experience is any gauge, you’ll have a honeymoon period where everything feels great, and then you’ll gradually return to baseline. You might feel a little better on a day-to-day basis, but don’t expect huge changes.

Two caveats:

1. I always enjoyed my work (at least somewhat), and I had already been working in a very easy part-time schedule for years prior to retirement, so I didn’t experience what many people here do -- a miserable/stressful work life, contrasted with the blissful release of retirement. If you have the latter, I’ll bet your honeymoon period will be more enjoyable and long-lasting.

2. It’s possible that the virus and economic collapse took a little wind out of my sails. That might be a factor, too. It’s hard to say.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m unhappy in retirement. Not at all. I’m enjoying my retirement and have no regrets.

5. I needed “meaningful work” sooner than I expected

Once, on another retirement forum, I got blasted for suggesting that people need a sense of meaning/purpose in retirement. Some guy got really pissed with me for saying so, and despite my assurances that if it didn’t apply to him, never mind, he continued to rant and rave about it in all caps. Apparently, some people get very upset with the suggestion that having a sense of meaning in life is important.

So, if this doesn’t fit for you, junk it. I’m talking about me. I’m not talking about what you or anyone else “should” do. I’m just speaking for myself.

I need a sense of meaning and purpose in life. That doesn’t mean I need to be engaged in meaningful activities all the time or even most of the time. I can fart around and waste time with the best of them, and I spend plenty of time just resting, relaxing, and doing nothing in particular. No problem with that.

However, at the end of the day (or life), I need to also feel like I did something meaningful with some of my time. I can’t just fart around all day, every day, and feel good about myself. I’m not wired that way.

So, I knew that part of what happy retirement meant for me was to eventually find “meaningful work.” By that I don’t mean paid employment – I mean an enjoyable project that uses my skills/knowledge and that also, hopefully, makes the world a little better place, even in a small, minor way. My career supplied some of that, so I knew that eventually, I’d need to find something else that scratched that itch.

I didn’t expect to feel that need for a couple years into retirement, though. It was way down my priority list, when planning. I had other sources of meaning (e.g., learning, growth, taking care of animals, etc.) which were more important to me than my career, so I didn’t think I’d feel the need for “meaningful work” right away.

And I didn’t. For the first six months of retirement, I wanted nothing to do with anything that even remotely resembled “w*rk.” Yuck. I just wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, day to day. I wanted to be completely free and unencumbered.

However, after about six months, I felt the need asserting itself. I’ve pondered and experimented quite a bit, and I’m still experimenting, but blogging is working out well for me so far. It’s a good fit for me. I get absorbed in it; the subject (animal afterlife) feels worthwhile to me, and I feel better after doing it.

I am usually able to keep a pretty good balance, where I work on it a couple hours a day, then have the rest of the day “free.” If I go for long stretches (which I can do sometimes, because I lose track of time), I will take a break for as long as I need. I want it to stay enjoyable and not turn into a “job” or an obligation.

So, for anyone who’s like me, the issue of meaningful work may pop up sooner than you expect. It has been a significant piece of the puzzle for me.

6. The lure of social media

I’m single, don’t have a family to occupy my time, and I’m not into watching TV or movies, travel, going to sporting events etc.. So, now that I am retired and don’t have a career, I have a ton of free time. I like it that way – lots of freedom, peace, and spaciousness. But along with that comes the temptation to waste that time on social media.

Social media has its upsides, of course, but the downsides are pernicious and covert. I have to keep an eye on my consumption, or I end up wasting too much time and energy on it. I’ve been aware of the problem for many years, but retirement has made it more salient, because of all the increased free time. I have to keep an eye on it.

For example, it’s very easy for me to go on a Facebook or Reddit group and spend an hour reading threads and making posts. Then I get sucked into discussions that don’t amount to a hill of beans. On Youtube, it’s very easy to spend a lot of time scrolling through the recommendations or subscriptions. News/politics in particular are very toxic and distracting.

So, in retirement, I’ve had to become pretty vigilant about my use of social media. If I’m not careful, I can end up wasting too much of my time and energy on it, and my life suffers. It may sound like a trivial thing, but it has a huge impact on the quality of my day to day life.


------

So, those are my main lessons from the first year of retirement. I learned some other things, but they only pertain to me, not others, so I’ll leave them out. Hopefully, you found something to relate to or some food for thought. Cheers.

MichaelB 06-08-2020 01:36 PM

Interesting thoughts, thanks for posting. Iím sure we all see some of those in ourselves.

COcheesehead 06-08-2020 01:41 PM

I have heard if you address purpose, community and structure, you are on your way. Would you agree?

Montecfo 06-08-2020 02:27 PM

Wow Eddie a year already? I just finished my first year too. Thanks for the insights.

I am avoiding social media in this way: not on FB, I am on Twitter which I uses as a new source. I never post. I follow nieces/nephews and a few personalities I like on Instagram. But I do not post per se.

Not going to get into the silliness I hear a lot of my friends complaining about. It is possible to know too much about people, you know?

W2R 06-08-2020 02:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ER Eddie (Post 2440231)
So, just be aware that retirement doesn’t put a permanent smile on your face. If my experience is any gauge, you’ll have a honeymoon period where everything feels great, and then you’ll gradually return to baseline.

With regard to level of happiness, in my 11th year of retirement I am still in the honeymoon phase.

BUT - - that said - - this COVID-19 lockdown has been terribly depressing and took a lot of fun out of my life for a while. Now that the New Orleans area is recovering and we are able to get out and do more things, life is getting a lot better.

I guess what I am saying is that in your case, you might still be in the honeymoon phase but not know it because of the effects of a horrific worldwide pandemic on one's level of happiness. That's perfectly understandable! I'd say maybe wait a year and re-assess. ;D

MikeWillRetire 06-08-2020 02:59 PM

I'm getting close, so it's nice to read this. Thanks for posting!

ER Eddie 06-08-2020 04:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MikeWillRetire (Post 2440271)
I'm getting close, so it's nice to read this. Thanks for posting!

You bet. Good luck to you.

Quote:

Originally Posted by W2R (Post 2440268)
With regard to level of happiness, in my 11th year of retirement I am still in the honeymoon phase.
[....]

I guess what I am saying is that in your case, you might still be in the honeymoon phase but not know it because of the effects of a horrific worldwide pandemic on one's level of happiness. That's perfectly understandable! I'd say maybe wait a year and re-assess. ;D

Wow, that's a long honeymoon, heh.

You might consider, though, that perhaps you just think it's been an 11-year honeymoon precisely because it's been 11 years, and you've forgotten how intoxicating the first few months felt. That's what I'm talking about when I say "honeymoon" -- maybe that wasn't clear. By "honeymoon," I mean the intoxicating rush you feel in those first few months.

I don't think that initial intoxication lasts or is meant to. Like all highs, it fades over time. That's just how the brain works. It adapts to all sorts of changes, good and bad.

That's not to say you can't enjoy and appreciate your retirement for as long as you live.

As for me, yeah, it's possible that the lockdown dampened my mood a little, although I'm an introvert, and I've taken most of this in stride. I know myself pretty well, and I can sense that my mood has come off the initial intoxication and has returned to normal. It is probably a little higher than before retirement, although it's hard to say how much. My normal baseline mood is probably about a 7 on a 10 point scale, so I'm good, no complaints.

Quote:

Originally Posted by COcheesehead (Post 2440238)
I have heard if you address purpose, community and structure, you are on your way. Would you agree?

Yes to a sense of purpose and community/connection. "Structure" is tricky, because to some people, the word "structure" feels constricting. To me, it just means having some sort of plan for how you'll spend your time, as opposed to waking up every morning with no idea what you're going to do. Some people like more structure, and some are fine with very little. I don't think there's any right answer.

Here are some other ingredients I've found important for me, which may or may not fit into those three categories:

- Rest, ease, relaxation (the other three categories are active, this one helps with balance)
- Physical health (could be part of structure, of course, but deserves separate mention)
- Enjoyment, contentment (don't forget to enjoy yourself!)
- Fun, humor, play (I tend to be overly serious, so this is an important reminder for me)
- Reducing time-wasters (social media, etc.)

corn18 06-08-2020 05:08 PM

Thanks for the post. #3 hits the mark for us. We want to retire next year and when I run the simulations with "normal" spending, we are good to go. Then I get the what ifs and convince myself that one more year would be a nice buffer. Then I simulate three more years and we would never worry about money. Then I simulate a market crash followed by stagflation. And on, and on, and on it goes until I can never retire. A $47k COLA pension and $55k SS @ 70 should be plenty. But what if....?

RobbieB 06-08-2020 05:39 PM

Glad to hear your are having fun!

Yup, spending up, way up! Blow That Dough!

Now retired 6 years, still in honeymoon phase.

Not going back to work.

Have no need for meaningful work or a "purpose for my life"

Moemg 06-08-2020 06:14 PM

I have been retired 12 years. My first stage was the need to just chill out .Stage 2 was find a life . I joined a gym, a few clubs and i also started an online business which became very successful .We also traveled a lot . This stage went on for ten years . I am now in my winding down stage . Still work out , still belong to a few clubs but travel is down .I really don't remember any really euphoric stage but I tend to be low key .

Franklin 06-08-2020 06:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ER Eddie (Post 2440231)
Lessons from the First Year of Retirement

Iím approaching my one-year retirement anniversary, so I thought Iíd share the main lessons Iíve learned. If youíre approaching retirement, you might find some of this helpful. If youíve already retired, maybe youíll relate to some of this, or perhaps your experience has been different.

1. Hey, an economic collapse. Neat.

The economy went into a tailspin 9 months after I retired. After only 9 months, my retirement felt like a newborn baby, and baby was getting smacked around pretty early in life.

But, as it turns out, economic catastrophes arenít so catastrophic after all. At least so far. The world is burning, but Iím doing okay. Sing along now: ďItís the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.Ē

2. I figured out when Iím going back to work: never

Approaching retirement, in the back of my mind, I had a fallback option of turning retirement into a ďgap yearĒ or two, if it didnít pan out. That is, I thought that I might choose to return to part-time work, after a year or twoís hiatus. That wasnít the plan, but it was a failsafe option.

I wondered, ďWhat if I miss the intellectual stimulation or challenge of work? What if I miss interacting with smart people in my profession? What if I canít find enough activities that feel meaningful and productive?Ē

Well, none of that happened. I am more intellectually stimulated and challenged now in retirement than I was at work. I occasionally miss some of the interaction with colleagues, but interactions in the workplace were narrow in scope, because of the professional roles and tasks. I interact with a wider range of smart people now, and I feel freer to express what I think about a variety of issues Iíd never talk about at work. And I havenít had any trouble finding meaningful things to do.

So, my career is over. It feels a little sad to say that, but also freeing. I donít say it with any negativity. I never got ďsick ofĒ my job or anything like that. I always liked it at least a little. I just know that Iím done with it. My career is part of my past now. Itís in the rear-view mirror, and Iím not going back.

3. I significantly underestimated my expenses

I tracked spending before I retired, but I sort of half-assed it. I used old, limited data from a time when I was in ďsaving for retirementĒ mode.

When I actually retired, I ended up spending a lot more money than normal, especially in the first 6 months. I opened the spigot. I was celebrating. I bought whatever I felt like buying -- a bike, camping gear, a dog, some furniture, a ton of books and music, clothes, some stupid ****. Also, once I retired, I noticed a bunch of stuff that needed replacing or upgrading, which Iíd been putting off while working.

Yearly expenses were $5000/yr. higher than expected. Not a lot in actual dollar terms, but looked at as a percentage, thatís 15% higher than what I projected (38K vs. 33K/yr.). Thatís not a problem Ė I jacked up my spending on purpose, and Iíve got plenty of headroom -- but it is substantially higher than what I estimated.

In retrospect, I think I unconsciously kept the estimates as low as I could, because by doing that, I could feel safer and more secure when pulling the plug.

Weíll see how this plays out over the next few years. I feel better now that I have a more realistic estimate of my spending. And I take some comfort knowing that I can dial back expenses 15% if I need to.

However, if youíre approaching retirement, be aware you might tend to underestimate expenses, just like I did.

4. The honeymoon lasted about 6 to 9 months

I was very happy in retirement for the first 6 to 9 months. Gradually, though, that feeling ebbed, and eventually, I returned to my baseline levels of happiness.

I think itís called hedonic adaptation. If I remember right, most people who win the lottery are back to baseline levels of happiness in about 6 to 12 months, and so are most people diagnosed with cancer. So, itís not surprising that something similar happens with retirement. We adjust to changes. Retirement becomes ďthe new normal.Ē

One distinction, though: If you ask me whether Iím more satisfied with my life now that Iím retired, Iíd say ďYes, absolutely.Ē Iím just saying my day-to-day mood is not all that much better than it was before I retired. Probably a little.

So, just be aware that retirement doesnít put a permanent smile on your face. If my experience is any gauge, youíll have a honeymoon period where everything feels great, and then youíll gradually return to baseline. You might feel a little better on a day-to-day basis, but donít expect huge changes.

Two caveats:

1. I always enjoyed my work (at least somewhat), and I had already been working in a very easy part-time schedule for years prior to retirement, so I didnít experience what many people here do -- a miserable/stressful work life, contrasted with the blissful release of retirement. If you have the latter, Iíll bet your honeymoon period will be more enjoyable and long-lasting.

2. Itís possible that the virus and economic collapse took a little wind out of my sails. That might be a factor, too. Itís hard to say.

I donít want to leave the impression that Iím unhappy in retirement. Not at all. Iím enjoying my retirement and have no regrets.

5. I needed ďmeaningful workĒ sooner than I expected

Once, on another retirement forum, I got blasted for suggesting that people need a sense of meaning/purpose in retirement. Some guy got really pissed with me for saying so, and despite my assurances that if it didnít apply to him, never mind, he continued to rant and rave about it in all caps. Apparently, some people get very upset with the suggestion that having a sense of meaning in life is important.

So, if this doesnít fit for you, junk it. Iím talking about me. Iím not talking about what you or anyone else ďshouldĒ do. Iím just speaking for myself.

I need a sense of meaning and purpose in life. That doesnít mean I need to be engaged in meaningful activities all the time or even most of the time. I can fart around and waste time with the best of them, and I spend plenty of time just resting, relaxing, and doing nothing in particular. No problem with that.

However, at the end of the day (or life), I need to also feel like I did something meaningful with some of my time. I canít just fart around all day, every day, and feel good about myself. Iím not wired that way.

So, I knew that part of what happy retirement meant for me was to eventually find ďmeaningful work.Ē By that I donít mean paid employment Ė I mean an enjoyable project that uses my skills/knowledge and that also, hopefully, makes the world a little better place, even in a small, minor way. My career supplied some of that, so I knew that eventually, Iíd need to find something else that scratched that itch.

I didnít expect to feel that need for a couple years into retirement, though. It was way down my priority list, when planning. I had other sources of meaning (e.g., learning, growth, taking care of animals, etc.) which were more important to me than my career, so I didnít think Iíd feel the need for ďmeaningful workĒ right away.

And I didnít. For the first six months of retirement, I wanted nothing to do with anything that even remotely resembled ďw*rk.Ē Yuck. I just wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, day to day. I wanted to be completely free and unencumbered.

However, after about six months, I felt the need asserting itself. Iíve pondered and experimented quite a bit, and Iím still experimenting, but blogging is working out well for me so far. Itís a good fit for me. I get absorbed in it; the subject (animal afterlife) feels worthwhile to me, and I feel better after doing it.

I am usually able to keep a pretty good balance, where I work on it a couple hours a day, then have the rest of the day ďfree.Ē If I go for long stretches (which I can do sometimes, because I lose track of time), I will take a break for as long as I need. I want it to stay enjoyable and not turn into a ďjobĒ or an obligation.

So, for anyone whoís like me, the issue of meaningful work may pop up sooner than you expect. It has been a significant piece of the puzzle for me.

6. The lure of social media

Iím single, donít have a family to occupy my time, and Iím not into watching TV or movies, travel, going to sporting events etc.. So, now that I am retired and donít have a career, I have a ton of free time. I like it that way Ė lots of freedom, peace, and spaciousness. But along with that comes the temptation to waste that time on social media.

Social media has its upsides, of course, but the downsides are pernicious and covert. I have to keep an eye on my consumption, or I end up wasting too much time and energy on it. Iíve been aware of the problem for many years, but retirement has made it more salient, because of all the increased free time. I have to keep an eye on it.

For example, itís very easy for me to go on a Facebook or Reddit group and spend an hour reading threads and making posts. Then I get sucked into discussions that donít amount to a hill of beans. On Youtube, itís very easy to spend a lot of time scrolling through the recommendations or subscriptions. News/politics in particular are very toxic and distracting.

So, in retirement, Iíve had to become pretty vigilant about my use of social media. If Iím not careful, I can end up wasting too much of my time and energy on it, and my life suffers. It may sound like a trivial thing, but it has a huge impact on the quality of my day to day life.


------

So, those are my main lessons from the first year of retirement. I learned some other things, but they only pertain to me, not others, so Iíll leave them out. Hopefully, you found something to relate to or some food for thought. Cheers.

Nice thread and posts. Thxs for sharing.!!!

SecondCor521 06-08-2020 06:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by corn18 (Post 2440328)
Thanks for the post. #3 hits the mark for us. We want to retire next year and when I run the simulations with "normal" spending, we are good to go. Then I get the what ifs and convince myself that one more year would be a nice buffer. Then I simulate three more years and we would never worry about money. Then I simulate a market crash followed by stagflation. And on, and on, and on it goes until I can never retire. A $47k COLA pension and $55k SS @ 70 should be plenty. But what if....?

Depending on your age, it might be hard to spend more money than you currently do.

I am FIREd 4 years now at 51 with a sub 1% WR, not for any weird planning or legacy reason but because I find it hard to spend more than I actually need to.

...

As for the OP, I am not any more happy in retirement personally, but I have found that over the past four years, a lot of stress has melted away, and I can feel very content because I feel very safe.

Also, I think everyone has their own FIRE journey, so although mine differs from yours in some ways, I think the idea of a lessons learned in the first year is an excellent idea, so thank you for posting your thoughts.

ER Eddie 06-08-2020 08:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SecondCor521 (Post 2440350)
As for the OP, I am not any more happy in retirement personally, but I have found that over the past four years, a lot of stress has melted away, and I can feel very content because I feel very safe.

Also, I think everyone has their own FIRE journey, so although mine differs from yours in some ways, I think the idea of a lessons learned in the first year is an excellent idea, so thank you for posting your thoughts.

You're welcome. I completely agree about everyone having their own journey. We're all individuals, and everyone finds their own way.

Out-to-Lunch 06-08-2020 08:46 PM

Love this post (and your earlier updates) so much. Thanks for sharing your insights to those of us on the precipice.

jollystomper 06-09-2020 05:56 AM

Great post. I wanted to compare my thoughts to these after I had been retired for a year. Some were the same, some were different:

1. Hey, an economic collapse. Neat. --> this reinforced my retirement plan, I saw even at the lowest levels it did not impact my retirement lifestyle from a financial perspective.

2. I figured out when I’m going back to work: never --> Agree.

3. I significantly underestimated my expenses -->it is the opposite for me, I overestimated our expenses and have spent a little more than a 3rd of what we planned.

4. The honeymoon lasted about 6 to 9 months --> I am still on the honeymoon, it is still fantastic to get up a be able to decide every day what I want to do, and I have a wide selection of options

5. I needed “meaningful work” sooner than I expected --> my meaningful work is whatever I choose to do.

6. The lure of social media --> I see "social media" as a trap I choose not to get wrapped up in. I want to maintain my mental and physical abilities, focusing on these keeps me away from social media.

We are all figuring out this retirement thing as we go along, the great news is that we are fortunate to be in this position in the first place, and that is what I keep focusing on.

Toocold 06-09-2020 06:42 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am close to crossing the 9 months mark and have similar experiences. Here are my specific thoughts on your 6 observations based on my experience.

Lessons from the First Year of Retirement

1. Hey, an economic collapse. Neat. Prior to the collapse, I explained to my wife that I had set up these "fortresses" to weather any economic storms. When March came around, I said to her this will be a good test of how well these walls hold. So far, it has held up well. I will make adjustments but I think this is a very good start.

2. I figured out when I’m going back to work: never Last night, I drempt that I was in a stressful working situation, and when I woke up, I was so glad it was only a nightmare and I had a big smile on my face. With that said, I haven't closed off on never working again, but it has to be an ideal work situation.

3. I significantly underestimated my expenses Due to the virus, we're trending toward spending 10k less core expenses and 35k under target budget. I decided to buy a 25 year anniversary gift for my DW and trying to find some travel to help bridge the gap.

4. The honeymoon lasted about 6 to 9 months 9 months and it has become steady state for me.

5. I needed “meaningful work” sooner than I expected I don't but I'm building an arcade and I'm learning alot about carpentry, tools, photoshop. I love it.

6. The lure of social media I'm on this and bogleheads forum a lot more. Maybe I'll get an extra star!

I will add a 7th - my health has significantly improved with all the workouts I do! :dance:

ER Eddie 06-09-2020 06:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jollystomper (Post 2440451)
We are all figuring out this retirement thing as we go along, the great news is that we are fortunate to be in this position in the first place, and that is what I keep focusing on.

Yes, it is something you figure out along the way -- a "work in progress," if you'll pardon the "w" word. Maybe a better way to say it is, these are travel notes at mile marker #1. We'll see where the rest of the trail goes.

Pre-retirement planning helped a lot. I want to encourage everyone to do that. I probably overdid it, analyzing and re-analyzing until my eyes bugged out, but hey, that's me.

One thing I learned is that some things will sound like good ideas in the planning stage, but will feel like duds when you actually try them out in retirement. I've had several things like that -- book clubs, volunteer work, even relocation (although I'm still waffling on that one). It's good to make lists of possibilities, but you won't know what you will really like until you get a chance to road-test it.

Fired Up 06-09-2020 06:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ER Eddie (Post 2440231)
Lessons from the First Year of Retirement

Iím approaching my one-year retirement anniversary, so I thought Iíd share the main lessons Iíve learned. If youíre approaching retirement, you might find some of this helpful. If youíve already retired, maybe youíll relate to some of this, or perhaps your experience has been different.

1. Hey, an economic collapse. Neat.

The economy went into a tailspin 9 months after I retired. After only 9 months, my retirement felt like a newborn baby, and baby was getting smacked around pretty early in life.

But, as it turns out, economic catastrophes arenít so catastrophic after all. At least so far. The world is burning, but Iím doing okay. Sing along now: ďItís the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.Ē

2. I figured out when Iím going back to work: never

Approaching retirement, in the back of my mind, I had a fallback option of turning retirement into a ďgap yearĒ or two, if it didnít pan out. That is, I thought that I might choose to return to part-time work, after a year or twoís hiatus. That wasnít the plan, but it was a failsafe option.

I wondered, ďWhat if I miss the intellectual stimulation or challenge of work? What if I miss interacting with smart people in my profession? What if I canít find enough activities that feel meaningful and productive?Ē

Well, none of that happened. I am more intellectually stimulated and challenged now in retirement than I was at work. I occasionally miss some of the interaction with colleagues, but interactions in the workplace were narrow in scope, because of the professional roles and tasks. I interact with a wider range of smart people now, and I feel freer to express what I think about a variety of issues Iíd never talk about at work. And I havenít had any trouble finding meaningful things to do.

So, my career is over. It feels a little sad to say that, but also freeing. I donít say it with any negativity. I never got ďsick ofĒ my job or anything like that. I always liked it at least a little. I just know that Iím done with it. My career is part of my past now. Itís in the rear-view mirror, and Iím not going back.

3. I significantly underestimated my expenses

I tracked spending before I retired, but I sort of half-assed it. I used old, limited data from a time when I was in ďsaving for retirementĒ mode.

When I actually retired, I ended up spending a lot more money than normal, especially in the first 6 months. I opened the spigot. I was celebrating. I bought whatever I felt like buying -- a bike, camping gear, a dog, some furniture, a ton of books and music, clothes, some stupid ****. Also, once I retired, I noticed a bunch of stuff that needed replacing or upgrading, which Iíd been putting off while working.

Yearly expenses were $5000/yr. higher than expected. Not a lot in actual dollar terms, but looked at as a percentage, thatís 15% higher than what I projected (38K vs. 33K/yr.). Thatís not a problem Ė I jacked up my spending on purpose, and Iíve got plenty of headroom -- but it is substantially higher than what I estimated.

In retrospect, I think I unconsciously kept the estimates as low as I could, because by doing that, I could feel safer and more secure when pulling the plug.

Weíll see how this plays out over the next few years. I feel better now that I have a more realistic estimate of my spending. And I take some comfort knowing that I can dial back expenses 15% if I need to.

However, if youíre approaching retirement, be aware you might tend to underestimate expenses, just like I did.

4. The honeymoon lasted about 6 to 9 months

I was very happy in retirement for the first 6 to 9 months. Gradually, though, that feeling ebbed, and eventually, I returned to my baseline levels of happiness.

I think itís called hedonic adaptation. If I remember right, most people who win the lottery are back to baseline levels of happiness in about 6 to 12 months, and so are most people diagnosed with cancer. So, itís not surprising that something similar happens with retirement. We adjust to changes. Retirement becomes ďthe new normal.Ē

One distinction, though: If you ask me whether Iím more satisfied with my life now that Iím retired, Iíd say ďYes, absolutely.Ē Iím just saying my day-to-day mood is not all that much better than it was before I retired. Probably a little.

So, just be aware that retirement doesnít put a permanent smile on your face. If my experience is any gauge, youíll have a honeymoon period where everything feels great, and then youíll gradually return to baseline. You might feel a little better on a day-to-day basis, but donít expect huge changes.

Two caveats:

1. I always enjoyed my work (at least somewhat), and I had already been working in a very easy part-time schedule for years prior to retirement, so I didnít experience what many people here do -- a miserable/stressful work life, contrasted with the blissful release of retirement. If you have the latter, Iíll bet your honeymoon period will be more enjoyable and long-lasting.

2. Itís possible that the virus and economic collapse took a little wind out of my sails. That might be a factor, too. Itís hard to say.

I donít want to leave the impression that Iím unhappy in retirement. Not at all. Iím enjoying my retirement and have no regrets.

5. I needed ďmeaningful workĒ sooner than I expected

Once, on another retirement forum, I got blasted for suggesting that people need a sense of meaning/purpose in retirement. Some guy got really pissed with me for saying so, and despite my assurances that if it didnít apply to him, never mind, he continued to rant and rave about it in all caps. Apparently, some people get very upset with the suggestion that having a sense of meaning in life is important.

So, if this doesnít fit for you, junk it. Iím talking about me. Iím not talking about what you or anyone else ďshouldĒ do. Iím just speaking for myself.

I need a sense of meaning and purpose in life. That doesnít mean I need to be engaged in meaningful activities all the time or even most of the time. I can fart around and waste time with the best of them, and I spend plenty of time just resting, relaxing, and doing nothing in particular. No problem with that.

However, at the end of the day (or life), I need to also feel like I did something meaningful with some of my time. I canít just fart around all day, every day, and feel good about myself. Iím not wired that way.

So, I knew that part of what happy retirement meant for me was to eventually find ďmeaningful work.Ē By that I donít mean paid employment Ė I mean an enjoyable project that uses my skills/knowledge and that also, hopefully, makes the world a little better place, even in a small, minor way. My career supplied some of that, so I knew that eventually, Iíd need to find something else that scratched that itch.

I didnít expect to feel that need for a couple years into retirement, though. It was way down my priority list, when planning. I had other sources of meaning (e.g., learning, growth, taking care of animals, etc.) which were more important to me than my career, so I didnít think Iíd feel the need for ďmeaningful workĒ right away.

And I didnít. For the first six months of retirement, I wanted nothing to do with anything that even remotely resembled ďw*rk.Ē Yuck. I just wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, day to day. I wanted to be completely free and unencumbered.

However, after about six months, I felt the need asserting itself. Iíve pondered and experimented quite a bit, and Iím still experimenting, but blogging is working out well for me so far. Itís a good fit for me. I get absorbed in it; the subject (animal afterlife) feels worthwhile to me, and I feel better after doing it.

I am usually able to keep a pretty good balance, where I work on it a couple hours a day, then have the rest of the day ďfree.Ē If I go for long stretches (which I can do sometimes, because I lose track of time), I will take a break for as long as I need. I want it to stay enjoyable and not turn into a ďjobĒ or an obligation.

So, for anyone whoís like me, the issue of meaningful work may pop up sooner than you expect. It has been a significant piece of the puzzle for me.

6. The lure of social media

Iím single, donít have a family to occupy my time, and Iím not into watching TV or movies, travel, going to sporting events etc.. So, now that I am retired and donít have a career, I have a ton of free time. I like it that way Ė lots of freedom, peace, and spaciousness. But along with that comes the temptation to waste that time on social media.

Social media has its upsides, of course, but the downsides are pernicious and covert. I have to keep an eye on my consumption, or I end up wasting too much time and energy on it. Iíve been aware of the problem for many years, but retirement has made it more salient, because of all the increased free time. I have to keep an eye on it.

For example, itís very easy for me to go on a Facebook or Reddit group and spend an hour reading threads and making posts. Then I get sucked into discussions that donít amount to a hill of beans. On Youtube, itís very easy to spend a lot of time scrolling through the recommendations or subscriptions. News/politics in particular are very toxic and distracting.

So, in retirement, Iíve had to become pretty vigilant about my use of social media. If Iím not careful, I can end up wasting too much of my time and energy on it, and my life suffers. It may sound like a trivial thing, but it has a huge impact on the quality of my day to day life.


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So, those are my main lessons from the first year of retirement. I learned some other things, but they only pertain to me, not others, so Iíll leave them out. Hopefully, you found something to relate to or some food for thought. Cheers.

Have been retired since Jan 2012, Had same experience with items 2,3,4,6. Assume most of us did.

Whisper66 06-09-2020 07:40 AM

Enjoyed reading your post Eddie. Brings to mind many similar thoughts I've had in the 5 years since retirement. A couple are:
Social Media - truly a time killer. I eventually dropped following everything except for this board and one private Facebook page used by a non-profit I volunteer with. It felt quite freeing to have the extra time and not read all the nastiness posted in socal media.
Economic collapse..neat - my wife asked me what I was doing one day back in March. Told her I was drooling at the low stock market prices and was considering a large increase in our equity holdings. (yes, we did that).
Meaningful work - I do volunteer "work" because I feel like giving back. It's ok but the "work" I now enjoy much more is the fix-it work I do around the home. Used to be I felt I needed to "fix it" before I went back to work or at least I had to work the job around my work schedule. Now I just work my fix-it jobs as I want to, take a break with I want to, and it will get done when it gets done. Much less stress and much more enjoyable.
Thanks for the great post.

nap470 06-09-2020 07:46 AM

Great post ER Eddie! This helps me a great deal as I am close to ER at age 59 1/2. I need to hurry or it won't be considered ER. :)

Happy for you and others, that you have found your "levels". As you said, it is different for everyone...and it should be. No retirement size fits all. Enjoy every day of it!


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